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An ancient imperial capital and eastern terminus of the Silk Road, Xi’an has long been an important crossroads for people from throughout China, Central Asia, and the Middle East, and thus a melting pot of diverse ethnic identities and religious beliefs. This Alliance program allows students to explore the historical confluences of geography, ethnicity, and religion in a city that is culturally distinct from the coastal megacities. An exhilarating two-week field study trip along the Silk Road takes students off the beaten path and ties these themes together at the crux of the semester.
Students may enroll for a semester, summer, or academic year, or for a combination of a semester and summer term. Students are encouraged to consider spending their second term in China in a different Alliance program to deepen their knowledge of China's regional diversity.
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For a total of 15 credits in fall and spring terms and 9 credits in the summer term, students take the following courses:
Classes are offered exclusively for Alliance students. Chinese language course placement is contingent upon the results of a placement exam after arrival in China. Language classes have a maximum of 8 students per class and are taught by language faculty selected and trained by the Alliance.
Xi’an served as one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China under at least 13 dynasties in the country’s 5000-year history. It is also the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, deemed by many as the first real conduit of globalization, and home to a 13.5 km-long, six-century-old city wall, and the spectacular Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Today, this bustling modern capital of Shaanxi province with eight million people prides itself on being a thriving metropolis with a distinct flavor, where history and modernity intersect. Since the 1990s, Xi’an has re-emerged as an important cultural, industrial and educational center of China’s central-northwest region, with facilities for research and development, national telecom and space exploration programs, and the third largest number of universities in China, only after Beijing and Shanghai.
Check out this interactive map of the Alliance's resources across Xi'an:
View Alliance On Location: Xi'an in a larger map.
Famous for being the cradle of the renowned 5th generation Chinese film directors, Xi’an also boasts some of China’s top art and history museums, a vibrant underground music scene, and a contemporary art district, which complements the city’s exuberant tradition and numerous historical sites. Xi’an also has an interesting ethnic mix and a notable Muslim presence, with Buddhist temples, pagodas and the 1,360-year-old Great Mosque decorating the city's skyline. Xi’an’s intriguing blend of ancient and modern, along with its ethnic, religious and culinary diversity, offers bountiful resources that Chinese-learning students can take full advantage of, be it Chinese history, literature, religion, architecture, arts, culture, in both historic and contemporary contexts against the backdrop of globalization.
Located in Xi’an’s scenic college district, Shaanxi Normal University (SNU) is conveniently situated near Xi’an’s brand new subway line, as well as the historic Wild Goose Pagoda and the Xi’an TV Tower—which offers some of the best views of the city. The SNU campus is surrounded by Chinese and International restaurants, as well as a large grocery store and food stalls selling traditional Xi’annese cuisine. Running alongside campus is Shida Street, the location of many restaurants, stores, cafes and bubble tea stands.
Walking distance from the SNU campus, students can practice bargaining in Chinese in the bustling night market or purchase a few necessities at Xiao Zhai—a large shopping center. Hop on the subway and in fifteen minutes students can find themselves in the center of Xi’an where they can explore the city wall or shop for souvenirs in the Muslim market.
Founded in 1944, Shaanxi Normal University (SNU) is one of the most comprehensive universities in China’s northwest region and home to over 40,000 students. SNU offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs in Chinese foreign language and literature, international politics, history, cultural studies, geography, natural sciences, economics, engineering, and other disciplines. Located in Xi’an’s scenic college district, SNU is conveniently near public transportation, parks, shopping, and scenic spots such as Xi’an Botanical Gardens and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. SNU’s campus has been named “the greenest campus in Xi’an.”
This 15-credit program Alliance program offers students 9 class hours per week of Chinese language as well as the opportunity to explore the historical confluences of geography, ethnicity, and religion in a city that is culturally distinct from the coastal megacities. Combining structured coursework, directed research, and an exhilarating two-week field study trip along the Silk Road, the Alliance’s Xi’an program takes students off the beaten path and introduces them to China’s essence – old and new.
ANTH350 The Silk Road Yesterday and Today (required, 3 class hours/week, 3 credits)
The "Silk Road" is synonymous with over a millennium and a half of cultural, religious, and economic exchange linking East and Central Asia with the Mediterranean. It was not only a route for the trade of luxury goods but also the source of a rich interchange of art, religion, ideas, and people. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the multi-dimensional history of the Silk Road by focusing on the geography of trade routes, the spread of Buddhist religious and artistic influences, and the influence of Mediterranean explorers like Marco Polo. Students have the opportunity to explore first-hand the historical and contemporary legacy of the Silk Road through various fieldtrips in and around Xi'an and during the two-week Silk Road field study trip.
All elective courses are taught in English and meet for three class hours per week. Class lectures, readings, and discussions are complimented with relevant fieldwork and site visits. Students must enroll in two from the following list.
Those elective courses listed in italics will be offered for Alliance students beginning in the Spring 2014 semester.
RELG340 Religion and Community in China (3 class hours/week, 3 credits)
Xi’an is home to several major Buddhist temples and monasteries as well as to one of China’s oldest and most important mosques, sustaining a thriving Muslim community since the days when Islam was first becoming known in China. According to legend, the sage Laozi wrote much of the Tao Te Ching nearby. Xi'an has a substantial Christian population and, at times, has also been home to communities of Jews, Zoroastrians, and Manicheans. Focusing on the relationships among religious groups, between religious institutions and the imperial state, and the present state of religious practice in Xi’an, students in this course examine the ways in which these communities have borrowed from and influenced one another.
ANTH370 Ethnicity and Identity in Northwestern China (3 class hours/week, 3 credits)
As the imperial capital for many centuries, Xi’an has long been an important crossroads for people from throughout China, Central Asia, and the Middle East. The city’s prominent Hui community trace their ancestry back to Silk Road traders from Persia and Arabia. To the west, along the Silk Road, are vibrant longstanding communities who now describe themselves as Uyghurs, Tibetans, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Dongxiang, Mongolian, Tajik, and more. By examining different theories and methods used in defining and determining individual ethnicity and ethnic groups - and the idea of what it means to be “Chinese” - students gain a more nuanced understanding of the communities that surround them.
RELG330 Islamic Studies (3 class hours/week, 3 credits)
Starting with an introduction to Islam, this course explores the diversity of practices among Sunni and Shia Muslims in different regions of the world, as well as Sufi interpretations and practices. The focus then shifts to the examination of the history of Islam in China, contemporary Chinese Muslim communities, how Islam is practiced and perceived in China today, and the relationship between Islam and the Chinese state throughout history and today. This course also explores the ways in which Islamic practices and traditions have been influenced by other religions and cultural traditions in China, and the influence of prominent Chinese Muslims on Chinese history and culture in general.
LITR260 Classical to Contemporary Chinese Literature (3 class hours/week, 3 credits)
This course explores the finest literary works of Chinese history but also includes fascinating fictional writings in Chinese American literature, providing a view of China through the lens of Western literature. From the writings of Confucius and Laozi to the tales of Pu Songling, Cao Xueqin, Lu Xun, and Zhang Ailing, students roam from the realms of the metaphysical to the romantic and the fantastic, the cynical and the realistic. Discussions shed light upon important issues in the previous dynasties as well as those in modern and contemporary Chinese society.
HIST375 Center of the World: Thirteen Dynasties of Xi'an as Imperial Capital (3 class hours/week, 3 credits)
This course introduces students to the early history of Chinese civilization and specifically Shaanxi Province, from the Neolithic Period up to the Golden Age of the Tang Dynasty. Through class discussions and visits to local historic and prehistoric sites, students look at how civilization developed across China and at the interactions between Shaanxi and other parts of East Asia. Additionally, students examine how we know what we know by looking at archaeological and historical research methods both in China and the West. By taking an interdisciplinary approach, which includes aspects of archaeology, history, and art history, students gain a thorough appreciation and understanding of early Chinese history.
Chinese Language (required, 9 class hours/week, 6 credits)
No prior language study is required for admission. Upon taking a placement exam after arrival, students will be placed into the appropriate language level. Courses emphasize listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Alliance programs teach Simplified Chinese Characters, which are standardized Chinese characters officially used in mainland China. Click here to view a full listing of textbooks by Alliance program and course.
Please find the draft versions of the 6 credit hour course syllabi below. Check back soon for the final versions.
CHIN321 Specialized Chinese Language (3 class hours/week, 3 credits)
This course will be offered beginning in the Spring 2014 semester. This course focuses on developing Chinese language skills through systematic study to meet each individual student’s academic requirements. Students may delve more deeply into Chinese phonetics, grammar, vocabulary, or syntax through a variety of Chinese language sources such as classical texts and poetry or newspapers and popular media. Available for students at the 201 Chinese level or higher.
This 8-credit program offers 15 class hours per week of Chinese language as well as the opportunity to examine China through courses in English in several disciplines including history, art history, society, culture, and an in-depth look at the Silk Road. The summer program is 8 and a half weeks long, with a half week of orientation, 6 weeks of instruction and a 2-week Silk Road Field Study Trip.
Chinese Language (required, 15 class hours/week, 5 credits)
No prior language study is required for admission. Upon taking a placement exam after arrival, students will be placed into the appropriate language level. All courses emphasize listening, reading, speaking, and writing. The Alliance programs teach Simplified Chinese Characters, which are standardized Chinese characters officially used in mainland China and Singapore, as opposed to Traditional Chinese Characters, which at present are more commonly used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.
The “Silk Road” is synonymous with over a millennium and a half of cultural, religious, and economic exchange linking East and Central Asia with the Mediterranean. It was not only a route for the trade of luxury goods but also the source of a rich interchange of art, religion, ideas, and people. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the multi-dimensional history of the Silk Road by focusing on the geography of trade routes, the spread of Buddhist religious and artistic influences, and the influence of Mediterranean explorers like Marco Polo. Students have the opportunity to explore first-hand the historical and contemporary legacy of the Silk Road through fieldtrips in and around Xi’an. The two-week Silk Road excursion brings this course to life.
One important and distinctive component of Alliance programs in China is the Capstone Academic Research Project. Capstone projects challenge students to engage with Chinese people and deepen their own understanding of one aspect of Chinese policy, society, culture, or business practice.
The Capstone Project is a research project that makes use of more than academic readings and published research. While these are important components of research and should be included in the project, the Capstone is meant to help students take advantage of their setting. Students use resources they would not have access to at their home universities. Students also incorporate interviews, participant observation, and other methods to create a final paper and presentation. Many students develop their Capstone as part of a senior thesis or broader future research project.
The Capstone Project is a graded component of the required course taught in English, The Silk Road Yesterday and Today. The Capstone Research Project comprises 40% of the grade for the course. Graded project work includes a project abstract with a problem statement and research methodology outline, a PowerPoint presentation, and a final paper.
A study abroad experience is first and foremost an academic experience, and the Alliance for Global Education takes the process of credit and grade conversion seriously.
The Alliance provides information on credit transfer and conversion at the time that a student chooses courses. Credit appears on transcripts issued by Arcadia University at the completion of a student's term of study abroad. Credit is issued in U.S. semester hours, ensuring that students continue to make progress toward their degrees and verifying the full-time academic load a student carries while abroad.
All Alliance courses have been reviewed and approved by Arcadia University’s Undergraduate Academic Programs Committee. Arcadia University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Any grades that appear on an Arcadia transcript must meet Middle States' standards.
Students receive a letter grade on a scale from A to F for every course they take while enrolled on an Alliance program. Although policies at students' individual home institutions may differ, the Alliance does not permit students to take courses on a credit/no credit basis. Student grades are determined by criteria set forth in course syllabi. As noted above, all Alliance courses are reviewed and approved by Arcadia University’s Undergraduate Academic Programs Committee. Arcadia University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
At the conclusion of a program, the College of Global Studies at Arcadia University sends an official Arcadia University transcript to a participant's home school and an unofficial copy to the participant.
Because universities abroad have different administrative structures, transcripts may take longer to issue than they do at U.S. institutions. While the timeline varies by program, a general timeline for issuing transcripts is:
If you have a question about the process, please feel free to contact your program manager responsible.
Please note: Transcripts are not released for students with an outstanding balance due to program fees. Students enrolling in consecutive terms with the Alliance do not receive their first term transcript until their second term fees are paid in full.
The Alliance Orientation is MANDATORY. You should make your travel plans accordingly. More details can be found in the Accepted Students: Travel Arrangements section.
Given the program’s busy academic schedule, weekly local activities and excursions, and field study trips, the Alliance STRONGLY DISCOURAGES students from hosting visitors until the end of the semester. Please encourage family and/or friends to visit AFTER the program has ended.
* Organized trip dates are subject to change at any time.
|Summer 2013 Program||$ 7,050|
|Fall 2013 Program||$ 13,550|
|Spring 2014 Program||$ 13,990|
The program price includes tuition and fees, pre-departure materials, guidance with applying for a visa, orientation, housing, weekly activities, all textbooks, the services of a full-time Resident Director, medical and evacuation insurance, and a two-week Field Study Trip and a weekend trip in the fall and spring semesters or a twelve-day Field Study Trip during the summer term.
The program price does not include airfare to China, meals, passport and visa fees, independent travel, and other items not mentioned as included.
Please click here for a breakdown of spring 2014 program fees, and an itemized list of additional expenses that students will encounter while abroad.
The Alliance encourages students to enroll for more than one term and to consider studying with more than one Alliance program. Some students choose to spend fall term in one location and spring term in another. Others continue in our summer term after completing spring.
Students who continue into a second term with the Alliance receive a $500 discount on the program fee for the second term. All combinations (two semesters, semester plus summer, two semesters plus summer) are possible.
Students are housed on campus in a newly renovated campus hotel/dormitory building. The SNU dormitory building is located on the residential side of campus and is surrounded by restaurants, a convenient store, and the campus medical clinic. The dormitory building is a 10 minute walk from the campus athletic fields (soccer, basketball, tennis courts, ping pong tables, and badminton), and an 8 to 10 minute walk from the Alliance office and classroom building. Each dorm room will house one Alliance student and one Chinese roommate. Dorm rooms are equipped with a private bathroom and shower, cable, internet, television, beds, desks, cabinetry, and heating/AC. Many rooms also have an enclosed balcony, and students may rent a small refrigerator from the building management office. Pillows, blankets and bed sheets are provided by the dorm. Towels are not provided. Laundry facilities are located in the dorm building on the second floor.
A distinctive feature of the Xi’an program is the chance to share a two-room suite with a Chinese roommate, providing Alliance students with the opportunity to meet Chinese students on campus and to engage in language and cultural exchange with their new friends. Chinese roommates are invited to attend many of the organized activities and also serve as language tutors. In addition, many of the roommates—who are selected from Shaanxi Normal University’s student body—major in teaching Chinese as a foreign language, which gives them insight into the process of learning Chinese.
Meals are not included in the Alliance program fee. Many students eat in the several cafeterias on campus that offer a variety of meal options. Meals are inexpensive (about $1 per meal) and plentiful. Students also eat in local restaurants, especially those on the street adjacent to the campus. Students should budget $6 per day for meals, which will allow them to eat some meals off campus at local restaurants, if desired. There are many traditional Chinese restaurants nearby, as well as a small number of American, Korean, Indian and Italian options. Former students suggest trying Rou Jia Mo (a traditional pork or beef sandwich), Bing Fen (a typical Xi'an orange drink), and thousand layer bread. In addition, there is a grocery store located in front of the dorms where everyday items and snacks can be purchased.
Vegetarians will find that good food is available in China. Most restaurants serve lots of vegetables, tofu dishes, and staples such as rice, noodles, or dumplings. Note that some restaurants may use animal fat in preparing dishes.
Throughout the term, students are invited to take part in a full schedule of excursions, events and lectures designed to enhance their understanding of China and the historical and modern influences that impact its culture and people.
The Alliance arranges extra-curricular classes which may include Chinese painting, calligraphy, cooking, taiji or other martial arts, pottery, seal carving, or paper cutting. These classes offer a wonderful opportunity to learn more about traditional Chinese culture.
The ancient and modern metropolis of Xi'an offers a wealth of destinations and activities. Whether it be walking or biking around the top of the City Wall, exploring the sights and people-watching, or strolling in one of the many outdoor markets, sampling local street food and making new friends, Xi'an is full of surprises. Below is a sampling of activities from previous semesters. Specific activities for future terms are subject to change:
Arguably one of China's most famous and popular tourist sites, the Terracotta Warriors are among the top archaeological excavations of the 20th Century. Located at the foot of the Mountain Li and 2 km west of the Terracotta army, is the tomb of the Qin Emperor. The Warriors were built to protect this tomb.
The Shaanxi History Museum offers a full display of historic relics excavated mainly in Shaanxi province. The exhibition depicts Shaanxi history through seven distinct sections, from 1 million years ago through the year 1840. Thirteen ruling dynasties established their capitals in Shaanxi province essentially making the ancient history of Shaanxi a highly condensed version of Chinese history.
The Xi'an City Wall is not only the most complete city wall in China but also one of the largest and most complete ancient military systems of defense in the world. Students will have the opportunity to tour the wall via bike.
The Great Mosque in Xi’an, located northwest of the Drum Tower (Gu Lou), is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved Islamic mosques in China. Moslem Street (Huimin Jie) is an old street paved with bluestone plate, on both sides of which stand a row of Muslim restaurants decorated in Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasty styles. This lively street lined with vendors is the best place in Xi’an to taste local snacks.
Situated in the Da Ci'en Temple, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (also called the Da Ci'en Temple Pagoda) is one of the most famous Buddhist pagodas in China. The north square of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda has the biggest music fountain in Asia. Tang Paradise is a beautiful park with the significant cultural heritage of Tang Dynasty. Outdoor movies and fireworks can be enjoyed there nightly.
The Small Wild Goose Pagoda stands in Jian Fu Temple, one kilometer south of the downtown area. If the Big Wild Goose Pagoda can be compared to a stalwart young man, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda is then like a delicate, slim girl. The new and high tech Xi’an History Museum is located in the park of the Small Wild Goose Pagoda.
Mount Lishan is on the north side of Mount Qinling and, at its highest peak, reaches 1,256 meters. The shape of the mountain is said to resemble a horse, hence the name which translates as “Black Horse Mountain”. At a height of 2,160 meters and about 120 km east of Xi'an, stands Huashan, or Flower Mountain.
Huxian, a small town of about 150,000 people, is a 45 minute bus ride from Xi’an. Huxian is known for having one the two most famous farmer style paintings in China. This field trip gives students a great opportunity to meet with Chinese folk artists, observe their work, and experience the life style of traditional northwestern China.
The Xi’an program includes a two-week Silk Road Field Study Trip (or ten-day during the summer) that allows students the exciting opportunity to see first-hand many of the historic trading, religious and artistic sites that they learn about in the core course, The Silk Road Yesterday and Today. This unique study trip brings the Silk Road course to life and provides an opportunity to learn not only about history but also development, politics and modernization. As part of the Capstone Project, students continue to investigate an area of particular interest during this trip.
While the specific itinerary for the Silk Road varies each semester, students typically travel to locations throughout Gansu and Xinjiang provinces. To provide you with a glimpse into what sites you may visit, here are highlights from previous trips:
How do Alliance program graduates look back on their experience studying in Asia? What advice can they offer on making the most of your time abroad? Contact these students to ask your questions!
Hi Everyone! My name is Richelle and I studied this past spring in Beijing and over the summer in Xi'an. It was absolutely amazing! Living in China for seven months was definitely a great experience and I can't wait to go back. I'm a senior...read more
Hi Everyone! My name is Richelle and I studied this past spring in Beijing and over the summer in Xi'an. It was absolutely amazing! Living in China for seven months was definitely a great experience and I can't wait to go back. I'm a senior at GW this year, and in addition to my international affairs major, I am also minoring in sociocultural anthropology and Chinese. I'm really interested in study abroad as a career, and I hope to go to graduate school to study international education. Aside from that, I'm originally from Seattle, WA and I love to compete ballroom and Latin dance for fun. hide
My name is Jordan Sharp. I am an Applied Linguistics major at Union University and I attended the Xi’an Summer 2011 study abroad experience. Before applying to the Alliance, I was very interested in China and studying Chinese, and I wanted...read more
My name is Jordan Sharp. I am an Applied Linguistics major at Union University and I attended the Xi’an Summer 2011 study abroad experience. Before applying to the Alliance, I was very interested in China and studying Chinese, and I wanted to find a program that would allow me to not only further my studies in Chinese, but also be immersed in the culture and learn more about China. The Alliance program provided me with the opportunity for this and so much more in one of the most memorable summers I have ever had. One of the best aspects of my experience was that I got to learn while being surrounded by a great group of classmates, Chinese roommates, teachers, and our RD. Overall, the Alliance program greatly assisted me in being productive and efficient during my time in China. After spending the summer with Alliance in China it furthered my desire to continue my Chinese studies and some day live in China. hide
Hello! My name is Joseph Larrea. I’m a Junior at Whittier College in Whittier, California. I started studying Chinese in College, initially as a fun way to complete my foreign language requirement, but quickly became very serious about the...read more
Hello! My name is Joseph Larrea. I’m a Junior at Whittier College in Whittier, California. I started studying Chinese in College, initially as a fun way to complete my foreign language requirement, but quickly became very serious about the language. I’ve travelled to China twice, first on a school trip and the second time while studying abroad with the Alliance Program. During these two trips I’ve covered a lot of ground, visiting cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Guangzhou, Guilin, Kashgar, Urumqi, Dunhuang, and many others. I chose to study in China with the Alliance Program on the recommendation of my professors and study abroad advisor. I chose the Xi’an Program because I wanted to travel along the Silk Road. I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Although I struggled initially speaking the language and adjusting to the culture, I was helped along by my wonderful teachers and program directors who were not only my guides and mentors, but also became dear friends to me. In my semester with the Alliance Program I travelled far and wide, had wonderful adventures, met countless friends, and made tremendous strides towards my eventual goal of becoming fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Now that I am back home, I am already making plans to return to China after graduation in order to teach English. I am happy to share my experience with anyone who is considering coming to China. hide
It had always been a dream of mine to travel and experience a culture with five thousand years of history and wisdom, mystery and art. China had always been of particular interest to me and eastern philosophy, art and religion had a profound impact on...read more
It had always been a dream of mine to travel and experience a culture with five thousand years of history and wisdom, mystery and art. China had always been of particular interest to me and eastern philosophy, art and religion had a profound impact on me throughout my life. After researching several programs, I determined that the Alliance for Global Education and the Xi’an program was the most credible and had the most potential. From the beginning process of applying for the program to time of departure, the Alliance staff was quick to respond to any of my questions or concerns and provided a pre-departure list that included everything that I would need to travel and live in China.
Once I arrived, our Alliance directors took us to local restaurants that served delicious food, markets that had everything we might need, stores we could shop at and explained where we could find any materials we might need for our classes. Throughout the program, the Alliance Staff in China went out of their way to make sure that I, as well as all other students, were comfortable and had everything we needed to communicate with other students and family back home. So many activities were offered and provided with an opportunity to meet our Chinese roommates and make friends. Not only did I learn Chinese, I learned Chinese calligraphy, 24 movements of Yang style Taijiquan, traveled across three provinces of China, saw the terra cotta warriors, had dinner with a nomadic family, camped in the desert, danced in Kashgar, visited the Mogao grottoes, and the list goes on!
If you want to experience mainland China, visit places you have only read about in history books, and have the experience of a lifetime and improve your Chinese, the Alliance for Global Education is the best Program without a doubt. After returning home, I registered to study Chinese at the University of Pittsburgh and after three months of study in China, my advisors are suggesting I skip the whole first year of Chinese and move to second year! The program surpassed any expectations that I had and made new opportunities I had not yet conceived of possible. hide
Read what these students have to say about study abroad with the Alliance in Asia!
Visit the Accepted Students section